Your home is not just the roof over your head. What makes it a home is all the things that are inside it, all the photos, knick-knacks, gifts you’ve received, and even the clothes you wear.
If you’ve suffered a fire tragedy, let us start with… our sympathies. We understand how you’re feeling. It can all be very scary and confusing.
This short article will help to guide you through some of the things that you can do to save your possessions as much as you can.
Contact Your Insurance Agent
Have them send someone right away. Often, they’ll make arrangements for a hotel, food, and even clothing vouchers for you right over the phone.
The sooner your claim is filed, the faster it will get paid. That said, don’t accept the first offer you’re given. An insurance adjuster's job is to save the insurance company money. They are less interested in getting you back to good.
If you’re offered significantly less than you need to put the house back together, you can appeal the decision. There's probably an internal appeals process. If that doesn’t work, you might need a lawyer. Of course, while you’re fighting them, you might still be in a hotel or staying at a friend’s house.
It’s rough, we know, but as contractors, we’ve seen too many homeowners accept a low insurance payout and end up with half a house getting rebuilt.
If you’re in Colorado, FH Water Restoration. We can help if this happens.
Call the Police
Secure the house before you leave. Sadly, there are people in the world that will go into a burned out house and take anything they can find. Ask for police protection or try to get someone to sit in the driveway until morning when you can see what you’re doing.
The police might be able to watch the house while you find someone to board up the windows. If you’re doing it yourself, you’ll need a drill, a screwdriver bit, some screws, lots of plywood, and a way to cut it.
Otherwise, call a local contractor, such as FH Water Restoration. They might be able to get out there in a few hours with everything you need and have it done while you deal with other things. Too many people forget this important step until they get to their house and see that someone has taken what’s left after a fire.
There are some items you just don’t want to have to replace. Get a fire box. You can get them at most big box stores. These are boxes that you can lock important documents in and protect them from most fires. Many of them are rated to survive four hours or more in fire.
Hopefully, you’ll never need one, but it holds things like necessary papers and items that are a hassle to replace. Passports, social security cards, birth certificates, spare credit cards, and contact information for next of kin should all be in a fire box. Your will, the deed to your home, and the title to your car should all also be in there.
If there’s a fire, that should be the first thing you have the fire department retrieve. This way, you won’t have to try to prove your identity as your handling getting back to life.
The Next Things to Look For
From there, you should look for those things that mean a great deal to you. Items like jewelry and silver should survive well. Most home fires don’t get hot enough to melt metals. Works of art, photos, books, etc. are all items you might want to retrieve.
There are companies that can do wonders with restoration and your insurance company should pay to repair items that can’t be replaced.
Your Financial Life
Your insurance should take care of your mortgage, but there are other bills that will need to be paid.
Within a day or two, sit down and make sure you have a plan for paying those things. If you’re going to be out of your house for more than a week or two, consider canceling the internet, phone, and even water. Put them on hold so that you’re not being charged for something you can't use.
For things like clothing and housewares that need to be replaced, hold onto your receipts. The insurance company will want a full accounting of all of those items.
If you need to prove something that requires a download, like a bank statement, you can always go to the library or a friend's house. If you use a public computer, be sure to log out and close the window to clear the memory.
Sit down and make a list of everything you lost in the fire that needs to be replaced. This includes beds, TVs, towels, blankets, and all of the things that we need to get through life. Don’t forget everything from pillow cases to dishes.
This list should help your insurance company give you everything you need to put your life back in order.
Start Right Away
After a fire, your life seems out of your control. Insurance companies are trying to call the shots. You’re staying in a hotel with almost no clothes, a free toothbrush, and maybe a Red Cross coffee.
The best way to get back in the saddle is to start right away. Give yourself an hour to feel sad about the objects you’ve lost, but as long as no one is seriously hurt, they’re all just objects.
Then, sit with your phone or even a pen and paper and start figuring out what you need to do to get back to where you were earlier in the day. In addition, think about who will be restoring your home. If you're in the Denver area, FH Water Restoration would be happy to help you through this difficult time.